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What is RAM (Random Access Memory) on a Computer?5 min read

by Abu Zar Mishwani
What is RAM computers

The most common type of computer memory is Random Access Memory (RAM).

It is a computer’s Read and Write (R/W) memory.  The user can write and read data from it.

RAM is a volatile memory, which means that information written to it can only be accessed while the power is turned on, and it cannot be accessed when the power is turned off.

Data and processing instructions are temporarily stored in RAM until the CPU needs them.

Because RAM  can be accessed considerably faster than data on a hard disk, SSD, or other long-term storage devices, RAM capacity is important for system stability.

What Does RAM stand For?

Random Access Memory.

RAM stands for “random access memory,” and it’s one of computing’s most basic elements.

Random Access Memroy (RAM) is a temporary memory bank that holds the data that your computer is currently working on.

It stores data readily at hand so it can be accessed quickly, avoiding the need for your processor to seek long-term storage to fulfill instant processing tasks.

Every computing device needs RAM, whether it’s a desktop (running On Windows, macOS, or Ubuntu), a tablet or smartphone, or even an IoT computing device.

Almost all computers feature a mechanism for storing data for later access. On the other hand, the functioning procedures are carried out in RAM.

What Does RAM Do?

Many of your computer’s everyday tasks, such as loading applications, accessing the internet, updating a spreadsheet, or playing the latest game, rely on RAM.

Memory also enables you to switch swiftly between these tasks, remembering where you were in the previous one when you go to the next.

The more memory you have, on average, the better.

You’ve used memory in multiple ways when you switch on your computer and open a document to change it but first read your emails.

Memory is needed to load and operate apps, such as your excel spreadsheets, respond to instructions, any spreadsheet changes you made, and switch between several programs, such as when you left the spreadsheet to browse the internet.

Your computer is nearly constantly actively using memory. If your computer is slow or sluggish, you may need to update your RAM.

If you believe you might need additional memory, upgrading the RAM on your desktop or laptop is simple.

Memory is similar to your desk in many ways.

It lets you work on many projects at once, and the larger your desk is, the more documents, files, and tasks you may have at once.

You can get to the information quickly and readily without having to walk to a file cabinet (your storage drive).

You can file any or all of your tasks in the filing cabinet for safety when you’re done with them or leave for the day.

Your storage drive (hard disk or solid-state drive) is the file cabinet that works with your desk to track your tasks is your storage drive (hard disk or solid-state drive).

What Is RAM Used For?

RAM is used for processing the data in real-time. RAM is much quicker than a hard disk – anywhere from twenty to a hundred times faster, depending on the hardware and task.

When you want to complete a specific job, computer operating systems transfer data from the hard disk into RAM to process it, such as sorting a spreadsheet or displaying it on screen.

When the computer actively works with the data, it stores it in long-term storage (sometimes at your request).

Let’s say you want to use the excel spreadsheet as an example.

When you launch Excel, the program is loaded into RAM on your computer.

When you load an existing spreadsheet from your hard drive, the operating system also transfers the data into RAM.

Then you can go back to Excel and do your regular number crunching. Because RAM is fast, the computer responds quickly in most situations.

When you finish the work on a spreadsheet, instruct Excel to save it, saving the data to a hard drive or other long-term storage.

(Because RAM is temporary storage, if you forget to save and the power goes out, all of your work will be lost). 

When you close a program, the computer’s operating system removes it from RAM and clears the deck, allowing you to proceed to the next task.

One way to make better use of RAM is to speed up retrieving previously accessible data.

It takes a long time for any application, such as PowerPoint or YouTube, to load when you first turn on your computer.

If you close and reopen a software, it will open almost instantly (unless your PC isn’t optimized for performance).

This is because the software is loaded from RAM rather than the hard disk, which is far quicker.

Types of Random Access Memory (RAM)

There are two types of RAM which are:

  • Static RAM (SRAM)
  • Dynamic RAM (DRAM)

#1. Static RAM:

The term “static” refers to a form of semiconductor memory that does not need to be refreshed regularly in order to maintain its data.

SRAM is more expensive than DRAM, but it is quicker and uses substantially less power. Therefore it is not utilized for high-capacity, low-cost applications like primary memory in personal computers.

Static RAM is mainly used to make the CPU’s cache.

#2. Dynamic RAM:

DRAM is a form of semiconductor memory in which the word “Dynamic” implies that it must be refreshed regularly to preserve its data.

Each bit of data is stored in its own capacitor within an integrated circuit.

The capacitor can be charged or discharged; these two states are used to represent the two-bit values, which are commonly referred to as 0 and 1.

DRAMs are utilized as internal memory in personal computers due to their simple structure, allowing for large storage and low cost compared to SRAM.

There are two main types of DRAM:

  • SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory)
  • DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate SDRAM)

What are RAM Speed and Latency?

The link between speed and latency is important to RAM performance.

While the two are related, they are not related in the way you might imagine.

The period between when a command is entered and when the data is accessible is referred to as latency.

Understanding the speed and latency of RAM can help you select the best RAM for your system based on your requirements.

How Much RAM Do You Need? 

It depends on the type of work you do, how many things you are working on simultaneously, and how impatient you are.

We want our computers to respond quickly, just like we expect so many other computing elements to respond instantly!

However, RAM is significantly less important than hard drive storage in most cases.

Consider the real office desk once again. The more space on your desktop you have, the more material you can spread out.

That doesn’t stop you from desiring a large file cabinet to store all of your accumulated files.

When standard technology was based on Pentium CPUs, you rarely required more than 8MB of RAM – possibly 32MB if you were a true IT geek — 25 years ago.

That was more than enough to run Windows 95, the early versions of Word for Windows, and Doom.

Today, a web browser with 10-20 active tabs can easily utilize over 2200 MB (2.2 GB) of RAM.

When purchasing a computer, you typically have multiple memory options: 2GB, 4GB, 16GB, or even more.

RAM usage on Task Manager
(RAM usage on Task Manager)

Most low-end devices now have 4GB of RAM, whereas higher-end (and consequently more costly) PCs have 8GB or 16GB of RAM as standard. 

(You can usually add more RAM for a higher cost.)

But how much and for what do you really need it? 

Our suggestions, which apply to any operating system or computer hardware, are as follows:

  • 4 GB of RAM: You’ll be good with 4 GB of RAM if you’re merely perusing the web, using basic Office software, and dabbling in personal photo editing.
  • 8 GB of RAM: A PC with 8 GB of RAM is recommended for heavy multitaskers or light gamers.
  • 16+ GB of RAM: Some tasks, such as professional gaming, video production, and programming, are intrinsically computationally intensive. “Enthusiast” users who don’t want to be bothered by slowdowns will need at least 16 GB of RAM.

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